Dear Governor Udom Emmanuel,
ongratulations your Excellency on the victory of Akwa United as champions of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL). This remains a historic feat and a first for the state. With Akwa United’s victory, there is a need for a paradigm shift in our approach to sports in the state. Presently our attitude to sports can best be described as laissez-faire. Besides football, there is hardly any other sports we care about and even the football we love begs for more investments.
Sports provide immense value to the society by promoting healthy living, unity, fun, excitement, and a source of distraction for youths from vices like cultism and crime. In addition, it provides financial uplift for the individual, and by extension the family. Currently in Nigeria, popular sports and games include football, athletics (track and field), table tennis, Judo, Boxing, and wrestling. Akwa Ibom has a talent pool waiting to be harvested, nurtured, and groomed.
Akwa United’s victory should inspire our re-think as sports is a vital tool for societal improvement, youth engagement and wealth creation. Societal improvement through sports includes infrastructure development. Infrastructure like stadia, sporting complexes, hotels are critical to the improvement of the architectural landscape of the state. Furthermore, the presence of key infrastructure can attract sports organizations to organize events within the state thereby enhancing the state’s tourism and revenue generation.
Sports enhance and improve self-esteem, promote unity and courage amongst participants and spectators. Our youths need a healthy distraction away from vices like cultism. Engaging our youths in sports should be initiated from the primary and secondary school cadres. Yearly sporting events with prizes and rewards to attract and encourage participation will ensure that we have a constant pool to discover talents. For example, Jamaica has dominated the track and field for more than 30-40 years and continues to consistently produce champions. This is because of several factors but fundamentally, there have a yearly athletics championship organized at the college level to select and coach future representatives to sporting events. We can implement similar events to channel the energy of our youths into productive ventures.
Additionally, an organized and vibrant sports sector attracts businesses which are always willing to provide sponsorship to create awareness about their products and services. Again, this inflow of income can bolster the economic fortunes of the indigenes and the state. We need to deepen our perspective on sports and tap into the numerous benefits outlined above. We can churn out more Hogan Basseys, Samuel Peters, Vincent Enyeamas, Troost-Ekongs, Mfon Udohs. They need government support.